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At Home in Happy Valley

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By Maria Canales, student staff writer 

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The summer before his senior year of high school, Penn State freshman goalie Colby Kneese had not yet committed to a particular collegiate program. At a tournament in Baltimore that June, Nittany Lion head coach Jeff Tambroni and his staff saw Kneese play, and knew Kneese could make an impact.

"We spoke back and fourth, had a visit with him over the course of the summer," Tambroni said. "It was late July or early August before his senior year that he made the decision to come to Penn State."

Kneese, who is a Dallas, Texas native, grew up in a lacrosse family. His grandfather played college lacrosse at Army and his uncle played at Navy. It was only natural that Kneese take up the sport around the age of six, finding a spot between the pipes as a goalie, the same position his grandfather played.

He quickly grew to love the sport and dedicated much of his young life to learning the game. In high school, Kneese earned All-State and Under Armour All-America honors in 2015. He also helped lead Highland Park High School to a state championship title in 2015.

After he corresponded with Tambroni in the summer of 2015, Kneese made his first trip to Penn State and immediately knew it was the place he wanted to spend his collegiate career. 

"I had always wanted to go to a big school," Kneese said. "I grew up going to University of Texas events because my whole family went there, so I liked the big school atmosphere, big football games and big athletics, and Penn State is also extremely respectable academically."

Since he was a bit of a later commit to his anticipated freshman class, Kneese had some catching up to do when it came to getting to know his future teammates. Upon arrival though, Kneese immediately forged friendships with guys in his freshman class, which made the transition from Texas to Pennsylvania much easier. 

Now having earned the starting spot between the pipes for the Nittany Lions, Kneese has settled in nicely behind a veteran defense that he says makes his job a lot easier.

"It's nice to know that the defensemen can handle some of the best attack players in the country," Kneese said. "I've definitely been getting more comfortable with the game setting and surroundings with my teammates and the defense," 

The defensemen feel similarly about Kneese's ability to do his job, knowing that the team's last line of defense has been so consistent this year for the Nittany Lions.

"It's nice to know that if I mess up or if someone misses something, or if someone shoots it, that there's a good chance of him saving it," sophomore defenseman Chris Sabia said.

With the pressure of his first Big Ten game out of the way, and his first conference win under his belt in last Sunday's win over Ohio State, Kneese is eager to get back out on the field and show more league opponents what he can do. 

This weekend, Penn State travels to Maryland for its first road conference game of the season, and first road game since March 11 at Harvard. The Nittany Lions look to remain undefeated, with Kneese coming off an outstanding Big Ten debut that including 13 saves and just four goals allowed for a .765 save percentage, earning him Big Ten Specialist and Freshman of the Week honors.

"You go into it with belief in your team because as of now we've done things pretty well and at a great pace," Kneese said. "We've trusted each other, and if we're all on the same page backing one another up, we haven't found a lot of teams that have given us trouble to possibly lose a game, because everyone's had each other's back."

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